The latest version of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution was officially released to the public Thursday after the customary beta-test period. This version is designated "LTS," for "long-term support," which should make it attractive to business customers who prefer a longer upgrade cycle for their operating systems.
Ubuntu 8.04 is available in a version tailored for server systems, but in the past it has been the desktop version that has garnered the most attention. The new release should be no different as it includes a number of improvements for desktop users -- most notably, a new installer that allows the OS to coexist on a Windows computer without partitioning or re-formatting the hard drive.
As is customary for Linux distributions, Ubuntu 8.04 includes incremental updates to many of the software packages that make up the system, from low-level details like the window manager and graphics subsystem, all the way up to the bundled OpenOffice.org productivity suite. The new release is also the first to ship with the Firefox 3.0 browser, which is currently still in late-stage beta testing. Despite some bleeding-edge additions to the package, my early testing of Ubuntu 8.04 showed it to be a remarkably stable and well-polished Linux desktop.
Full disclosure: I've tried many different desktop Linux distributions, but Ubuntu remains my personal favorite. I will definitely be upgrading the Ubuntu partition on the computer from which I write this, just as soon as I'm able.
Of course, getting your own copy of Ubuntu may well be the trick. The main servers are typically overburdened in the first few days after a new release. Be sure to use the mirror nearest you, or better still, use BitTorrent. Links to torrent files are hidden away on the main Ubuntu site, but they're available. Using BitTorrent helps to relieve the load on the download servers, plus you get the satisfaction of helping fellow Linux users get their own copies of Ubuntu while you download yours. (If the server is too slow to let you navigate to the torrent files, try here for a torrent for the desktop version for i386.)